Statistical Profile: There were flashes of brilliance during Higgins’ 17-catch, 2-TD freshman year that got people excited, but full-time work wouldn’t come until 2018. Over Higgins’ final two seasons at Clemson he grabbed 59 passes each year for 25 total touchdowns, going over 1,100 yards as a junior.
Scouting Higgins: Higgins isn’t a difficult evaluation, but he could be a tough valuation depending on how your NFL team operates. He’s at his best in the air, sky-scraping for high throws with his impressive length and strong hands. Higgins’ body control is among the best in the class, and it shows at all areas of the field – along the sideline, in the end zone, and vertically between the numbers.
While Higgins gobbles up contested catches at an outstanding rate, he also struggles to separate from man coverage, especially at the line of scrimmage. Releases are a component of wide receiver play that can definitely improve, but Higgins really struggled to win with his feet or with his hands off the snap. Press coverage often got hands on him, slowing his release and preventing him from gaining position vertically.
Higgins can win down the field, but he’s not a burner, and doesn’t have the acceleration to run by cornerbacks in an instant. Most of his damage down the field will be done in tight windows with his ability to play above-the-rim at a high level. Something he’ll have to improve on is consistently using his size and strength to gain optimal position on cornerbacks in all contested situations, especially after posting a 31-inch vertical at his pro day that will have teams questioning how well his high-point abilities will translate to the next level.
There’s some stiffness to Higgins as a mover, but he does a nice job of selling deception in his route breaks against off coverage, getting his feet, eyes and hips angled one way to manipulate defenders before snapping off in another direction. He doesn’t have the suddenness to break away from man coverage on every rep however, and his issues with getting off early contact can continue at the top of his route as well.
Most of the time YAC receivers are great athletes in space, but Higgins is more creative and physical than anything else. He has really good contact balance to stay up through some pretty square hits, and he runs with a purpose when the ball is in his hands. Higgins mentality and strength with the ball in his hands are traits that will allow him to be more than just a jump ball guy, but he doesn’t have the breakaway speed to be the scoring threat other YAC receivers are.
I just don’t see sudden or explosive movements in routes and releases for me to trust that Higgins is going to be open consistently, against all matchups and coverage schemes in the NFL. On tape here are clear ways he can win as a receiver, both in the air and with the ball in his hands, but if you struggle to separate and don’t have elite speed, you better physically beat the heck out of defensive backs and show some extreme nuance to your routes/releases. For all the things that are easy to get excited about with Higgins, his limitations in those areas would keep me from drafting him in the range he’s currently being projected, especially after a dismal pro day performance.
Bucs Fit: Higgins fits the physical profile the Bucs tend to gravitate towards at receiver, but they would be far better served finding a weapon that would add something more unique to their passing attack than Higgins. His YAC ability would be welcome in Tampa, as would his ability to play all three receiver spots, but I think there are even better receivers with the ball in their hands and certainly better downfield threats in this class, making Higgins a little redundant in Tampa Bay.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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